Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne

Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne was born on February 24, 1811 to free Black parents London and Martha Payne in Charleston. He became a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, President of Wilberforce University, abolitionist, educator and historian.

Bishop Daniel Payne studied at the Minors’ Moralist Society School for two years, and then was privately tutored by Mr. Thomas S. Bonneau. Bishop Payne went to work at age twelve to a shoe-merchant, as a carpenter at thirteen, and then as a tailor, finally entering the teaching profession and opening a school for Black children in 1829, when only nineteen years of age. In 1835, South Carolina passed bill No. 2639: An Act to Amend the Law relating to Slaves and Free Persons of Color which forced Payne to close his school.

After his school was closed, Bishop Payne went North where he enrolled in the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, studying there from 1835 to 1837. In 1837 he joined the Franklin Synod of the Lutheran Church, and was ordained as the first African American minister in the Lutheran Church in Fordsboro, New York in 1839. At his ordination he delivered a speech, Slavery Brutalizes Man in support of a synodical report to end slavery in America.

Bishop Payne left the Lutheran Church and joined the A.M.E. Church in 1841, becoming part of the ministry in 1843. From 1842 to 1843 he was a leader in the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, which provided enslaved black women and men food, clothing, and temporary shelter, and also assisted them in escaping to Canada which did not recognize the Fugitive Slave Act. In 1840, Bishop Payne opened a coeducational school in Philadelphia. Acting as historian for the A.M.E. Church starting in 1848, Bishop Payne wrote the History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1853 Payne was elected sixth bishop of the A.M.E. Church.

Under Bishop Payne’s leadership, the A.M.E. Church expanded its foreign missions, reorganized its publication program, and established hundreds of new congregations. Bshop Payne founded the South Carolina Conference of the A.M.E. Church in South Carolina in 1865, an example of the denomination’s rapid growth among recently emancipated slaves. Bishop Payne was the first Black man to preside over the Methodist Ecumenical Conference, the founder of Wilberforce University and its first president. In 1893 Payne made his last public appearance at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Bishop Payne passed away on November 2, 1893 in Xenia, Ohio leaving a legacy of service and accomplishment.